Glossary of Common DWI Terms


Administrative License Suspension: The law that allows the prompt suspension of the license of drivers charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) when a driver has a BAC above the prescribed legal limit, or if a driver refuses to take a blood or breath test. Under these circumstances your driver’s license may be suspended before adjudication of the DWI charge.

Aggravated (Enhanced) DWI: A DWI where the BAC is .15 or greater.

BAC: Short for “blood alcohol concentration.” BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and is measured in percentages. BAC can be measured by breath, blood, or urine testing and is often used by law enforcement to determine whether or not a motorist is “legally drunk”. Texas has adopted BAC laws that make it illegal to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08.

Breathalyzer: A generic term for a machine used by law enforcement to measure the BAC of suspected drunk drivers. In Texas, the designated machine is an Intoxilyzer 5000 Model 6800EN.

BWI: Boating While Intoxicated. Currently, this is defined as operation of a watercraft in a public place while intoxicated.

Chemical Test: As it relates to DWI, a test of the alcohol or drug concentration in a person’s blood. An Intoxilyzer, blood analysis, or urinalysis can be used as chemical tests for alcohol. If other drugs are suspected, a blood test or urine test is used.

CDL: Short for Commercial Driver’s License. A special driver’s license for vehicles used in commerce.

Commercial Vehicle: A vehicle driven for business purposes. The punishment for a DWI by a person who holds a CDL is more severe than a non-CDL holder.

Community Service Restitution: Uncompensated work performed for a governmental agency or a non-profit agency. Community service may be a mandatory part of your sentencing. In Texas, once ordered by the court, it can be bought out by buying up to one half of the hours owed for an hourly fee.

D/A Assessment: Drug and Alcohol Assessment. A statutory requirement used when a plea is entered for a DWI/APC. This is normally a one-hour evaluation, which will look for abuse problems and formulate a plan of action to deal with any problems. Any recommendations in the assessment will become requirements by DPS before reinstating your license if it is suspended. Additionally, the recommendations will become requirements of the court for any probation that may be offered.

DPS: Department of Public Safety. In Texas, this is the agency responsible for issuing and administering your driver’s license and for overseeing the Breath Testing Program for all law enforcement agencies in the State.

DWI School: DWI schools are typically drug and alcohol education programs designed to help you realize how dangerous drinking and driving is and to hopefully ensure you are not a repeat offender. In Texas, DWI schools are prescribed by the State.

DWI: Driving While Intoxicated. This can be from two sources. The “per se” law says you are DWI if you have a BAC of .08 or greater. You can also be found guilty of DWI if a jury determines you had lost either your physical or mental faculties based on the evidence.

DWLI: Driving while license invalid. If you do not have a valid license and drive it is a separate criminal offense and can be a violation of bond or probation.

DUI: Driving Under the Influence of any detectable amount of alcohol for persons under the age of 21.

Felony: A serious crime, such as murder, rape, or burglary, for which a stricter sentence is given than for a misdemeanor. Repeat DWI’s in Texas can be treated as felonies. Also, if there has been a death as a result of the DWI, it will be classified as a felony, depending upon the prosecutor and the situation.

Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a pre-set limit of .02. The device is located inside the vehicle, near the driver’s seat, and is connected to the automobile’s ignition system.

Implied Consent Laws: If you have a Texas driver’s license you have, by implication, consented to allow the officer to have your blood alcohol concentration measured by breath testing, blood testing or both if you are arrested for DWI. You may refuse to take the tests, but a license suspension may result.

License Revocation: A license revocation means your driving privileges have been cancelled. You will need to reapply for a driver’s license after a designated length of time. You may be able to obtain an Occupational License during the suspension period.

License Suspension: A license suspension means you may not drive for the period of your suspension. Driving privileges are administered by the Department of Public Safety. An Occupational License may be obtained.

Misdemeanor: A crime less serious than a felony. All municipal court cases are misdemeanors. The maximum jail punishment on a misdemeanor is one year in the county jail.

No Refusal Weekend or No Refusal Policy: Many Texas cities and counties have these programs in place for special occasions, weekends or every day of the year. If you refuse to provide a sample of your breath or blood upon arrest you will have your blood forcibly taken based upon a Blood Search Warrant. You will be strapped down in a restraint chair with physical force to accomplish this search.

Occupational Driver’s or Essential Needs Driver’s License: If your license is suspended by DPS and this is your only DWI in the last 5 years, you probably are eligible for a modified license. This means you must install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for the period of the suspension. You cannot drive a vehicle without an interlock devise installed. There are exceptions for company-owned vehicles if it is not your company, if the employer approves, and if the employer is not related to you. The hours and locations can be restricted and a written driving log may be required.

Open Container Laws: It is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle.

Probation: When all or part of the required jail time is suspended in exchange for good behavior. Jail time may be reinstated if it is found that the terms of probation are being violated. Examples of violations would be another arrest, driving under suspension, driving without the interlock device installed, or failing to abide by the conditions of probation that the judge assigns to you.

Sobriety Checkpoints: A system where law enforcement agencies select a particular location for a particular time period and systematically stop vehicles (for example, every third car) to investigate drivers for possible DWI. If any evidence of intoxication is noted, a detailed investigation ensues. Not authorized in Texas at this time for DWI.

VIP: Victims Impact Panel. A meeting that usually lasts about 3 hours consisting of victims, victim’s friends, or victim’s family members of drunk driving accident victims. Attendance at one of these meeting is a standard requirement of a DWI conviction.

Work Permit: A common term and a misconception. People think they can apply for a work permit if their driver’s license is suspended for a DWI. That is not true. There is no such thing as a “work permit” in Texas. See Occupational Driver’s or Essential Needs Driver’s License above to see if you qualify or if it is available.

Zero Tolerance BAC: A phrase that refers to the prohibition of having ‘any detectable amount’ of alcohol in your system.

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